August 30, 2011

Sleeping Through The Night

Dove at In the Dovecote is expecting her first baby September 10th.  On my post, 36 Weeks, she asked for some newborn techniques and specifically how is it that we get our babies to sleep through the night so soon.  Well, as is the case in all things blog these days, I really intended to get this out to you sooner friend, so that you would be ready when your little one arrives.  With two weeks to go, I am hoping this crash course will give you a boost to get you and your baby off on the right path.

Truly, I have no big secret to getting my babies to sleep.  My oldest was born when I was 19 years old.  I had little to no experience with newborn babies, particularly a tiny preemie with special needs, like Kaitlin.  I really had no one to go to for advice or encouragement.  So I just winged it.  However, I am a person who does best on a routine and regular schedule so I just naturally fell into a routine of feeding, diapering, playing and napping my little daughter.

I had always heard the stories about babies who are up all night every night until the parents can't see straight, and that is what I expected.  When she was about a week old, I tucked my bundle into her bassinet beside my bed and exhausted fell asleep.  When I woke the next morning and the sun was shining and the clock read 10 am, I was panicked, certain that something was wrong.  But, no, she was sleeping soundly.

Scheduling Kaitlin took all the guess work out of being a new mother.  I knew by the clock why she was crying.  It was time to eat, time to play or time to sleep.  The real blessing of this was, if she was fussy at other times, I could assume there was something wrong... a tummy ache, a cold, teething etc... and quickly tend to my daughter's needs.

This worked so well for my first that I continued it with Brianna.  I was even more grateful for the schedule with Brianna, who suffered chronic ear infections until she had surgery at 18 months old.  It is so hard to identify sickness in a baby, but by eliminating other causes of fussiness and crying, I was easily able to know quickly when she was suffering with an earache.  Being able to tend to it right away, prevented this chronic problem from becoming a permanent hearing loss issue.

When Brianna was about three years old, I read the book, "On Becoming Baby Wise" by Gary Ezzo.  In their book the Ezzos teach new parents about the pitfalls of demand feeding and the blessings of Parent Directed Feeding.  Those names seem so overwhelming but what it boils down to is feeding your baby whenever they cry versus putting your baby on a schedule.  I was so excited to see it all laid out so clearly and to know that if I had failed at all things parenting, I had gotten this one thing right.  When Emma came along the next year, it was a no brainer to put her on a schedule, too.  And all our children since.

We saw the benefits of schedules many times over in light of our babies sleeping through the night from birth.  But also in so many other situations such as having three boys in four years.  With so many little ones around, we were already exhausted.  If we had been up all night with fussing babies, I can't imagine how we would have made it through and tended to our 3 daughters, who were all being home schooled.  Especially, because Allen was on the road many weeks and I was doing it all alone.

Then, because I knew when my babies would be awake, eating or sleeping, I could plan our families schedule accordingly which made it easier to meet everyone's needs with as little stress as possible.

Another time when scheduling really paid off was when Nathaniel was about six months old.  He became frighteningly and inexplicably ill.  Because he had always been a happy and content baby, we were able to very quickly discern that something was wrong and turn our attention to finding the cause and getting him well.

With all that being said, Carmella was our first baby to regularly wake up during the night past the first few days at home.  Being small, I expected that she would need to get up and nurse an extra feeding during the night.  However, we figured that once she gained a little weight, she would start sleeping all night.  But she continued to wake up.  By wake up, I mean she would get up at 2 am, eat and usually go back to sleep within 30 minutes until her 8:30 am feeding.

Not really much to complain about.  Just the same, I was wondering what I had done that I couldn't get her to sleep through the night.  She was eating and sleeping on a good schedule throughout the day.  Literally, she wakes up within 5 minutes of her regular feeding time.  And if we check the clock when she becomes unsettled, it is always within a few minutes of her nap time.  She is a happy and content baby that is enjoyed by all.

Trying to get to the root of the issue, I pulled out my BabyWise Book and reread it last Monday.  I couldn't find anything that we weren't doing.  But I did read the sentence that most scheduled babies sleep through the night (7-8 hours at a time) by 8 weeks.  A limited few take up to 12 weeks.  And at 12 weeks they typically sleep about 12 hours at a stretch, the same as babies who learned to sleep through the night sooner.  We had never had an experience with a baby not sleeping right from the start, so I had not made notice of this time frame before.  I concluded, Carmella was just 7 weeks old and she needed extra nourishment so she would just need a little more time than the other kids.

But do you know what?  Last Thursday, a few days before she turned 8 weeks, voila, she slept through the night.  Waiting to see if it was a fluke before counting our chickens, we tucked her in the next night.  She slept all night.  And the next.  Meaning she nursed at 8:30 pm and then slept until 5:30 am.  So there you have it.  It may take a little time, but if you stick to your guns, your baby, and you, can have a good night's sleep.

Seriously, On Becoming Babywise, is the gift we give to all first time parents.  I can quickly discern which ones have read and applied the principles within minutes of meeting their babies.  Babywise babies are happy and pleasant to be around.  Their mama's are well rested and filled with the joy of being a mother.  On the other hand, babies who are not raised on a schedule tend to be fussy and demanding.  Their parents look exhausted and by 8 weeks are often asking themselves, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

I often have exhausted parents ask me what to do about their 6, 12 or even 18 month old child who won't sleep.  I tell them it isn't too late to make a change but the best time to start would have been the day their baby was born.

My best advice to you, Dove, is get the book.  Read the book.  Apply its principles.  They will make for a happy baby, a happy mama, a happy papa and a happy family.  Just for doing so, Brianna (my amazing blog designing daughter) has offered to gift you with a free custom blog makeover.  Just email me with your contact info and I will pass it along to Brianna.  Praying for a safe delivery and the best of all God has to give you as you begin your journey into parenting.



1 comment :

  1. Thank you so much for the info! I actually already own Babywise (hope I still qualify for the blog makeover! ;o) and we are planning on using its methods. It was so reassuring to here from you that it works, as there are so many conflicting views on feeding/scheduling babies it is hard to a first time mom to know what to do!

    I don't do well on little sleep, and no routine, so I think the the techniques you brought out will be perfect for us. Also we hope to have a large homeschooling family someday, so it will be important for me to have proper rest and scheduling!

    I really enjoy your blog and shared it with my hubby, he enjoyed reading all of the nicknames you have for each other. Your family is truly inspiring.

    Hugs, Dove